Many Americans received a violent introduction to Islam in September 2001. And yet, only one quarter of Americans told pollsters then that they considered Islam itself to be more likely than other religions to encourage violence in its believers. In the last two years, that figure has almost doubled. The specter of violence committed in the name of Islam has become as routine as it is shocking, especially at present in Iraq.
In this hour, we take a critical look at what is happening in Islam from inside a practice of that tradition. Krista discusses the present escalation of violence in the name of Islam with a practicing Muslim and leading scholar of Islamic studies, Vincent Cornell. He paints a bleak picture of chaos and drift within Islam which may presage renewal or the continued decay of the religion he loves.
Voices on the Radio
Host/Producer: Krista Tippett
Executive Producer: Bill Buzenberg
Producer: Mitch Hanley
Producer: Kate Moos
Associate Producer: Colleen Scheck
Web Producer: Trent Gilliss
The religious landscape of Iraq is complex and somewhat enigmatic to the western world. Nearly 97% of Iraq's 25 million people are Muslim, and a majority of Iraqis are Shiite rather than Sunni. What does that mean? And how powerful is the prominent cleric Ayatollah Ali al Sistani who has effectively challenged the American-led coalition. Could he become another Islamic revolutionary like Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini?
As part of Iraq's rebuilding process, the Iraqi governing council agreed on an interim constitution that cites Islam as a source — but not the primary source — of future legislation. Approval of the interim constitution was delayed first by violence, and then by a group of Shiite council members who raised objections to elements within it. Host Krista Tippett speaks at length with Iraqi-American professor and advisor, Ahmed al-Rahim, for insight into the unfolding new relationship between mosque and state in Iraq.
In the years since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, scrutiny of the religion of Islam has become part and parcel of our public life. In forums of all kinds, often guided by non-Muslim pundits, we ask, what does terrorism have to do with the teachings of the Qur'an? Can Islam coexist with democracy? Is Islam capable of a reformation, or has it fallen into hopeless decay?
We pose these questions to a spectrum of American Muslims who describe themselves as devout and moderate. Our guests take us inside the way Muslims discuss such questions among themselves, and they suggest that when we consider "the Muslim world" we must look first at Islam in this country. In this open society, they say, Islam has found a home like no other.
We experience the religious thought and the spiritual vitality of two Muslims—male and female—both American and both with roots in ancient Islamic cultural, intellectual, and spiritual traditions. Their stories and ideas, music, and readings, evoke a sense of the richness of global Islamic spirituality and of some of its hidden nuances and beauty. They reveal how sound, music, and especially poetry offer a window onto the subtleties and humanity of Islamic religious experience.
Religious fundamentalism has reshaped our view of world events. In this show, host Krista Tippett explores the appeal of fundamentalism in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, as experienced from the inside. Three accomplished men, who were religious extremists at one time in their lives, provide revealing insight into the spiritual and cultural dimensions of fundamentalism. They also discuss religious impulses which counter the fundamentalist world view and helped them break free.
In this personal exchange between a Jewish rabbi and Islamic scholar, host Krista Tippett explores the integrity of religious faith and openness to the faiths of others. In a world in which religious experience is implicated in violence, two thinkers discuss how it is possible to love their own traditions and honor those of others.
This program was recorded live at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles in June 2003.